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Chia seeds are among the healthiest foods on the planet. They are loaded with nutrients that can have important benefits for your body and brain.

Chia seed pudding. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Chia seed pudding. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Here are 11 health benefits of chia seeds that are supported by human studies.

1. Chia Seeds Deliver a Massive Amount of Nutrients With Very Few Calories

Chia seeds are tiny black seeds from the plant Salvia Hispanica, which is related to mint. This plant grows natively in South America. Chia seeds were an important food for the Aztecs and Mayans back in the day. They prized them for their ability to provide sustainable energy … in fact, “chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength.”

Despite their ancient history as a dietary staple, only recently did chia seeds become recognized as a modern day superfood. In the past few years, they have exploded in popularity and are now consumed by health conscious people all over the world.

This is what chia seeds look like:

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Don’t be fooled by the size … these tiny seeds pack a powerful nutritional punch.

A 1 ounce (28 grams) serving of chia seeds contains:

  • Fiber: 11 grams.
  • Protein: 4 grams.
  • Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
  • Calcium: 18 percent of the RDA.
  • Manganese: 30 percent of the RDA.
  • Magnesium: 30 percent of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus: 27 percent of the RDA.
  • They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.

This is particularly impressive when you consider that this is just a single ounce, which supplies only 137 calories and one gram of digestible carbohydrate! Just so that we’re all on the same page, 1 ounce equals 28 grams, or about 2 tablespoons.

Interestingly … if you subtract the fiber, which may not end up as usable calories for the body, chia seeds only contain 101 calories per ounce. This makes them one of the world’s best sources of several important nutrients, calorie for calorie.

To top things off, chia seeds are a “whole grain” food, are usually grown organically, are non-GMO and naturally free of gluten.

Bottom Line: Despite their tiny size, chia seeds are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. They are loaded with fiber, protein, Omega-3 fatty acids and various micronutrients.

2. Chia Seeds Are Loaded With Antioxidants

Another area where chia seeds shine is in their high amount of antioxidants. These antioxidants protect the sensitive fats in the seeds from going rancid.

Although antioxidant supplements are not very effective, getting antioxidants from foods can have positive effects on health. Most importantly, antioxidants fight the production of free radicals, which can damage molecules in cells and contribute to aging and diseases like cancer.

There are some claims online about chia seeds having more antioxidants than blueberries, but I was unable find a study to verify this claim.

Bottom Line: Chia seeds are high in antioxidants that help to protect the delicate fats in the seeds. They also have various benefits for health.

3. Almost All the Carbs in Them Are Fiber

Looking at the nutrition profile of chia seeds, you see that an ounce has 12 grams of “carbohydrate.” However, 11 of those grams are fiber, which isn’t digested by the body. Fiber doesn’t raise blood sugar, doesn’t require insulin to be disposed of and therefore shouldn’t count as a carb.

The true carb content is only 1 gram per ounce, which is very low. This makes chia a low-carb friendly food. Because of all the fiber, chia seeds can absorb up to 10-12 times their weight in water, becoming gel-like and expanding in your stomach. Theoretically, this should increase fullness, slow absorption of your food and help you automatically eat fewer calories.

Fiber also feeds the friendly bacteria in the intestine, which is important because keeping your gut bugs well fed is absolutely crucial for health. Chia seeds are 40 percent fiber, by weight. This makes them one of the best sources of fiber in the world.

Bottom Line: Almost all of the carbohydrates in chia seeds are fiber. This gives them the ability to absorb 10-12 times their weight in water. Fiber also has various beneficial effects on health.

4. Chia Seeds Are High in Quality Protein

Chia seeds contain a decent amount of protein. By weight, they are about 14 percent protein, which is very high compared to most plants. They also contain a good balance of essential amino acids, so our bodies should be able to make use of the protein in them.

Protein has all sorts of benefits for health. It is also the most weight loss friendly nutrient in the diet, by far. A high protein intake reduces appetite and has been shown to reduce obsessive thoughts about food by 60 percent percent and the desire for night time snacking by 50 percent.

Chia seeds really are an excellent protein source, especially for people who eat little or no animal products.

Bottom Line: Chia seeds are high in quality protein, much higher than most plant foods. Protein is the most weight loss friendly macronutrient and can drastically reduce appetite and cravings.

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